Corporatisation of RMG industry

Marksman | Published: September 04, 2018 21:44:54 | Updated: September 05, 2018 21:10:42

A report carried in this paper  on August 26  titled,  "RMG industry steadily  getting corporatised" highlighted the benefits  to be had  from  the  development in the  status  of the sector. Shorn of  frills , hard-headed pragmatism calls  for a    distinction to be  made  between  adopting 'a corporate  culture' and  actually effecting  corporatisation of an enterprise,  structurally and operationally.

 The  former is a  little subjective  while the latter  happens to be   objective  containing  certain fundamental elements like good management-worker relations, prospects  for rewards/ promotion , fair wages , work-place  safety,  and gender- friendly behaviour  in  view of an   overwhelming women majority  among the garments'  work force.

Corporatisation is  driven by  productive  efficiency, competitive pricing  and  profit motive  , objectives  in   meeting which the workers are the lynch-pin while the mid-to-upper level managers  form the bedrock.        

The second  point of  concern is two-fold that unfortunately  receives lip-service  instead of  the  pivotal attention it  has  so richly deserved for so long! The buying house alliances  cry their hearts out in sympathy for the workers' safety and are insisting  on compliance standards for the consumption  of their citizens. All this  has  admittedly worked  as a positive force for our industry. But alliance  partners  cannot  stretch it  too far-namely  chaperoning us  to a  point of  foisting  the opposite of what they should have aimed for: Encouraging  self-reliant management .We would have  looked a bit kindly on their  stickler  approach, if you like,  had they been themselves   above board in meeting their part of the bargain. For, when the time  comes for  bargaining  on   our products   they  set rock-bottom price to our products  taking undue advantage    of the  cheap labour  cost Bangladesh is known for.

As for gaining control over decision-making in the   garments sector Professor Rehman Sobhan's  articulate  concern over dependence on hired  consultancy  resonates  robustly with us. We must have our own pools of trained mid-upper mid level experts on a double quick basis under arrangements with training institutes overseas including   adequate stints of in-house, on-job training imparted at the mid-level  in our own country.    

Yes, the readymade garments sector has been   in a process  of  corporatisation, but  more out of forces of circumstances than in consequence of a deliberate  choice or a planned approach to a  transformative direction.  The  external  forces  came into play  after Tazrin and Rana Plaza  disasters  had  unmasked  the callous negligence of  minimal worker safety in a number of  factories.   

Of course, the awakening to incipient dangers came   in the sector  as part of a self-maturation process as well  which is borne out by its evolution. Beginning  as   pioneering   individual  enterprises with a vision,  the embryonic   apparel  manufacturing  units graduated  from  different groups of companies  to come  of age as  big conglomerates. Where mercantile, and even intra- and inter-family partnerships proved rather fragile, the merging groups with extended  allied interests thrived in the apparel sector.    

 This has been aptly described as a business being 'operated  through various departments including marketing, finance, operations, compliance ,merchandising, research and development(R&D), and human resources  under the umbrella of respective  groups.' 

The synergies have meant lower production costs, helped ensure   rights and  benefits to workers and other employees. Moreover, composite  companies  with their own backward  linkage industries like spinning, knitting, dyeing, printing  and accessories helped meet  the lead time.       

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